Miller, Giberson Spank Back

If you saw my post the other day about Jerry Coyne’s review of the recent books by Ken Miller and Karl Giberson, then you might also be interested to know that Miller and Giberson have now replied. Click here for Miller’s reply, and click here for Giberson’s.

Let’s look at Giberson, first:

Empirical science does indeed trump revealed truth about the world as Galileo and Darwin showed only too clearly. But empirical science also trumps other empirical science. Einstein’s dethronement of Newton was not the wholesale undermining of the scientific enterprise, even though it showed that science was clearly in error. It was, rather, a glorious and appropriately celebrated advance for science, albeit one not understood by most people. Why is this different than modern theology’s near universal rejection of the tyrannical anthropomorphic deity of the Old Testament, so eloquently skewered by Dawkins? How is it that “science” is allowed to toss its historical baggage overboard when its best informed leaders decide to do so, even though the ideas continue to circulate on main street, but religion must forever be defined by the ancient baggage carried by its least informed?

Because that ancient baggage carried by its least informed is constantly reasserting itself in the form of political pressure in directions that would be harmful to the country, while the theologians don’t seem to have much influence outside the academy. Because that ancient baggage represents the dominant beliefs of those who identify as religious believers. Because religious revelation is supposed to be a source of truth that is timeless and eternal, and not something that gets revised every time scientists get an idea about something. Because science overthrows its baggage by finding new evidence and formulating better theories that prove themselves in the field and the lab, while theology, let us be blunt, mostly makes it up as it goes along.

That’s how it’s different.

Giberson goes on to write:

I think we can all agree though that, wherever we stand, there is a great need for a discussion of how America’s conversation on origins should proceed. We need to wake up to the reality that current strategies have been an abysmal failure and ask some tough questions about why that is. There is a widespread fear on America’s main streets that evolution is destroying a cherished belief in God. As a consequence, anti-evolution has assumed the proportions of a military-industrial complex but the battle is a proxy war, aimed not at evolution, but at materialism. I wonder what would happen if, in the name of pluralism and diplomacy, we could all agree that it was OK for people to believe that evolution was a part of God’s plan. I suspect that cultural changes would be inaugurated that would eventually make both Eugenie Scott and Ken Ham irrelevant.

And I wonder what would happen if we could turn sand into ice cream and give a cone to every child in the Middle East. I suspect the resulting cultural changes would solve the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.

Yes, by all means let us adress Giberson’s question. Americans see evolution as a threat to cherished religious beliefs because it is a threat to cherished religious beliefs. It is a threat regardless of whether people like Dawkins or Coyne are around to call attention to the fact. It’s not a problem of strategy and it’s not a problem of people being misinformed about the latest pronouncements from professional theologians. People aren’t waiting for scientific authority figures to tell them condescendingly that it is OK to believe in both God and evolution. They are fully capable of seeing for themselves the many conflicts between evolution and traditional Christianity. If you are constrained only by your imagination, and if your only standard for measuring your religious beliefs is that they be logically possible, then you can get around the challenge posed by evolution. But the ones seeing conflict are not the ones being unreasonable.

Let us see what Miller has to say:

As I pointed out in Only a Theory, evolution did indeed produce the grand and beautiful fabric of life that covers our planet, including our own species. Therefore, we are not a “mistake” of nature, but a full-fledged product of the natural world. If God is the creator of that world, including the laws of chemistry and physics and even the unpredictable events of the quantum universe, then it would be perfectly reasonable for a religious person to see our emergence, through the process of evolution, as part of God’s plan for that universe.

Perhaps, but a person inclined to go this route should also ask what can be inferred about God’s plan from the fact that he does his creating through billions of years of sadistic bloodsport. An all-powerful, all-loving God is not the first thing that comes to mind.

He’s right on one score, obviously. That is that certain religious claims, including the age of the earth, a global worldwide flood, and the simultaneous creation of all living things are empirical in nature. As such, they can be tested scientifically, and these particular claims are clearly false. Claims of demonstrative miracles in the past, such as the virgin birth or the resurrection cannot be tested empirically, because there are no data from which to work. On such claims, science has nothing to say one way or the other. Coyne’s complaint on such things, paradoxically, is that they must not have happened because there is no scientific explanation for them.

Actually, Coyne’s complaint was the following:

Like Giberson, Miller rejects a literal interpretation of the Bible. After discussing the fossil record, he contends that “a literal reading of the Genesis story is simply not scientifically valid,” concluding that “theology does not and cannot pretend to be scientific, but it can require of itself that it be consistent with science and conversant with it.” But this leads to a conundrum. Why reject the story of creation and Noah’s Ark because we know that animals evolved, but nevertheless accept the reality of the virgin birth and resurrection of Christ, which are equally at odds with science? After all, biological research suggests the impossibility of human females reproducing asexually, or of anyone reawakening three days after death. Clearly Miller and Giberson, along with many Americans, have some theological views that are not “consistent with science.”

Coyne’s major complaint, as I see it, has to do with the reasons for accepting certain religious dogmas. Miller’s contention that we have no data for assessing whether a miracle happened thousands of years ago plays right into Coyne’s hands. Why does Miller think the Bible is reliable when it talks about Jesus, but does not think it is reliable when it talks about creation? Science frowns in both cases. Yes, of course, you can always argue that maybe in one special case thousands of years ago one particular dead body behaved in ways that no dead body before or since has ever behaved, but Coyne is not wrong to see such a kludge as a violation of what science tells us about the world.

I don’t believe that either Miller or Giberson have responded effectively to Coyne’s arguments, but go read them for yourself and let me know what you think.

Comments

  1. #1 John Kwok
    January 28, 2009

    Jason,

    As much as admire Jerry Coyne, I have to concur with Ken’s harsh criticism of him. Coyne forgets – and this was a point brought home by none other than Donald Prothero during a recent lecture here in New York City – that nearly one half of all evolutionary biologists do subscribe in some belief in a God. I know from my own personal experience, how eminent evolutionary ecologist Michael L. Rosenzweig – a graduate school mentor of mine – embraced successfully both his devout Conservative Judaism and his strict adherence to excellence in evolutionary ecological research.

    Ken’s defense of both his religious faith and acceptance of evolution as science is absolutely first-rate and exactly what I’ve come to expect from Ken (In the interest of full disclosure, I assisted Ken in his very first debate against a creationist, which was held years ago on the campus of our undergraduate alma mater, Brown University, when Ken was a newly-arrived assistant professor of biology.).

    I reminded Coyne recently that P Z Myers had the audacity to label Ken as a creationist, and I regret that he’s fallen into the same trap.

    Sincerely yours,

    John

  2. #2 Michael Fugate
    January 28, 2009

    I agree evolution is a threat to religious belief because many people can’t compartmentalize like Miller and Giberson do.

    The essay by Dennis Overbye in the New York Times makes a good case why this happens.

    “That endeavor, which has transformed the world in the last few centuries, does indeed teach values. Those values, among others, are honesty, doubt, respect for evidence, openness, accountability and tolerance and indeed hunger for opposing points of view. These are the unabashedly pragmatic working principles that guide the buzzing, testing, poking, probing, argumentative, gossiping, gadgety, joking, dreaming and tendentious cloud of activity – the writer and biologist Lewis Thomas once likened it to an anthill – that is slowly and thoroughly penetrating every nook and cranny of the world.”

    Once you open yourself to science it is difficult to stomach religion.

  3. #3 386sx
    January 28, 2009

    Mr. Miller said: “In fact, I have argued exactly the opposite. Evolution is not rigged, and religious belief does not require one to postulate a God who fixes the game, bribes the referees, or tricks natural selection. Unfortunately, Coyne does not seem to appreciate this point.”

    I never understood that. If God wanted to “tinker” with evolution, why would anybody compare that to bad things like “tricks”, or “rigging”, or “bribes”? How come God doesn’t “bribes the referees” when God does other miraculous stuff? Sorry Mr. Miller dude, but sometimes you really do stretch it a bit.

  4. #4 John Kwok
    January 28, 2009

    @ 386sx,

    I may not agree always with Ken’s logic, but he has earned the right to make such an observation. Moreover, if you are willing to criticize Ken, are you also prepared to criticize prominent, religiously-devout biologists like Francis Collins and Mike Rosenzweig too?

    The issue should not be framed as science vs. religion, because, by doing so, we are falling into the very trap that creationists contend, that “belief” in evolution must mean one’s denial of GOD. There are many religiously devout Muslims, Hindu and Buddhist scientists – as well as Christian ones – who accept the scientific validity of evolution. I think it’s a serious mistake if we start attacking their devout religious faith. Doing so would only play into the hands of creationists like Ken Ham, Bill Dembski, and Paul Nelson, among others.

    John

  5. #5 386sx
    January 28, 2009

    I think it’s a serious mistake if we start attacking their devout religious faith. Doing so would only play into the hands of creationists like Ken Ham, Bill Dembski, and Paul Nelson, among others.

    Okay thanks from now on I will consider not attacking the devout religious faith of Ken Ham, Bill Dembski, and Paul Nelson, among others.

  6. #6 John Kwok
    January 28, 2009

    @ 386sx,

    I think you need to view the video comments left by Genie Scott, Ken Miller, Francis Collins and Richard Fortey at the end of the AMNH “Darwin” exhibiition, which I believe you can access here:

    http://www.amnh.org/darwin

    Hope you’re just kidding about not attacking the religious beliefs of Ken Ham, Bill Dembski and Paul Nelson; they’re Christian Fascists IMHO and therefore, their beliefs deserve attacking.

    John

  7. #7 Antaeus Feldspar
    January 29, 2009

    “Okay thanks from now on I will consider not attacking the devout religious faith of Ken Ham, Bill Dembski, and Paul Nelson, among others.”

    It’s sad that you were obviously not serious, because doing so would make you more effective. I don’t know Ham and Nelson’s “work” that well, but in regard to Dembski, what is wrong is not his devout religious faith, but his corrupt attempts to twist science to an agenda, which are wrong no matter what that agenda is. If you attack Dembski’s corruption of science, you stay on the moral high ground and your attacks have ten times the force. If you attack Dembski’s devout religious faith then you play right into Dembski’s hands; you might as well send him a note reading “Dear Bill, I have very many good points to make but I want you to sweep them all under the rug; why don’t you try spinning everything I say as part of the ongoing ‘War On Christians’?”

  8. #8 windy
    January 29, 2009

    Miller writes

    So, despite his frank admission that “convergences are striking features of evolution,” he rules any possibility that human-like intelligence could also be a convergent feature. His only reason for so doing seems to be that such intelligence evolved “only once, in Africa.” Apparently, to satisfy his standards, it should have evolved many times.

    Err, isn’t that pretty much the definition of convergence? What a bad response from Miller.

    Coyne is perfectly clear on this point:

    It is hard to make a convincing case for the evolutionary inevitability of a feature that arose only once.

  9. #9 Robert O'Brien
    January 29, 2009

    Once you open yourself to science it is difficult to stomach religion.

    That’s an assertion that begins and ends with you.

    And why does Herman Munster’s opinion even appear on the radar? Almost everyone in the math department here is more important than him.

  10. #10 MIchael Fugate
    January 29, 2009

    Hey, it’s my opinion. So what?

  11. #11 bobxxxx
    January 29, 2009

    Ken Miller wrote “That is the task of defending scientific rationalism from those who, in the name of religion would subvert it beyond all recognition. In that critical struggle, Jerry, scientists who are also people of faith are critical allies, and you would do well not to turn them away.

    I would call “scientists who are also people of faith” part of the problem. The religious extremists (creationists and terrorists) need the existence of religious scientists to justify their own religious beliefs. If there were zero religious scientists, all the religions of the world would be in big trouble, and harmful religious ideas like magical creation and suicide bombings would be more likely to go extinct.

    So I wouldn’t call religious scientists allies. I would call them people who make religious insanity possible.

    I respect what Ken Miller did at the Dover trial, and I have learned quite a bit about evolutionary biology from what he said at that trial, but I think his belief in a magic god fairy is childish and insane. I just don’t understand why he bothers with it. Perhaps he enjoys the money he makes from his pro-religion pro-science books.

  12. #12 SLC
    January 29, 2009

    The difficulty here is that Prof. Rosenhouse, like Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne takes the position that methodological naturalism implies philosophical naturalism and that philosophical theism somehow conversely implies a rejection of methodological naturalism. That is the basis of Prof. Coynes claim that Ken Miller is a creationist, little different from Michael Behe. This is the position that Prof. Miller is rejecting in his response.

    Thus, the argument here is, IMHO, not a scientific one at all but a philosophical one, and like most philosophical arguments cannot be resolved by empirical evidence. The only issue is, does Prof. Miller and others who, like him are philosophical theists, do good science? Thus far, the critics of Prof. Miller have failed to provide evidence that he does not do good science.

  13. #13 Jim Roberts
    January 29, 2009

    Once you open yourself to science it is difficult to stomach religion.

    That was certainly my experience.

  14. #14 Ian
    January 29, 2009

    You neglect to mention that Lawrence Krauss and Daniel Dennett also weigh in.

  15. #15 James F
    January 29, 2009

    bobxxx wrote:

    I would call “scientists who are also people of faith” part of the problem. The religious extremists (creationists and terrorists) need the existence of religious scientists to justify their own religious beliefs. If there were zero religious scientists, all the religions of the world would be in big trouble, and harmful religious ideas like magical creation and suicide bombings would be more likely to go extinct.

    I couldn’t disagree more. If all scientists were atheists, it would hand the Religious Right a huge weapon in their fight to weaken or destroy the teaching of evolution in the public schools: “See? Darwinism leads to atheism!” Think about it: people like Ken Miller and Francis Collins give the Discovery Institute and Answers in Genesis conniption fits, since they ruin their argument that evolution is a matter of science vs. religion. Meanwhile, who invokes religious scientists to help dispel the canard that evolution equals atheism? Organizations like the National Center for Science Education, the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

    Coyne has argued that an increase in acceptance of evolution in the United States will come with a decrease in religious belief among the population. Given that (minus the odd philosophical relativists) all creationists are religious fundamentalists, I have to agree that the latter would result in the former, but I sincerely hope that it’s not the only way that can happen. Another strategy worth fighting for is to rally the religious moderates in support of evolution education and marginalize creationists wherever possible. Even conservative faiths can change: witness the shift among some evangelicals from the time that Jerry Falwell was openly denying global warming to today’s “creation care” pro-environment stance.

  16. #16 John Farrell
    January 29, 2009

    Perhaps, but a person inclined to go this route should also ask what can be inferred about God’s plan from the fact that he does his creating through billions of years of sadistic bloodsport. An all-powerful, all-loving God is not the first thing that comes to mind.

    That’s true, Jason, but I don’t think it’s as a big a deal as you do. The same person, for example, could ask himself why did God order the Israelites to slay so many women and children in their conquest of the promised land, as depicted in lurid detail throughout the Septuagint? I don’t see why you think evolution necessarily forces theists to call into question God’s goodness or his providence when they had plenty of grist for that mill long before Darwin. Just read up on the Black Death in the 14th century.

  17. #17 heddle
    January 29, 2009

    Michael Fugate

    I agree evolution is a threat to religious belief because many people can’t compartmentalize like Miller and Giberson do.

    On a scale of 1 to “Evolutionary Psychology” where we rank made-up shit that can’t be detected, can’t be falsified, and can’t be quantified–but sound nice ‘n sciency, the all-encompassing “compartmenization” explanation is a 9.85, the same score as ID.

  18. #18 Captain Obvious
    January 29, 2009

    Science and faith don’t have to clash as on a basic level they deal with completely separate issues and in completely different ways. A ferverent belief that the world and all on it is overseen the the Sky Pixie Zomgrah The Benevolent doesn’t *have* to interfere with scientific enterprise, just as science can’t ever really finally prove the Zomgrah doesn’t exist, somewhere.

    Where the problems arise is when faith becomes religion, crystallising into a set of beliefs about how the world works which can be tested and either confirmed or refuted by examining the evidence. It’s compounded when the believers insist that their beliefs are somehow true and to be held above all else regardless how hard reality – the evidence – appears to disagree.

    Science can’t ever succesfully confirm or deny the existance of one or more gods, it can only speak of the need and likelyhood of such things. Science doesn’t have to interfere with raw faith or vice versa by definition, but if faith becomes religion and that then tries to interfere with science, it all falls apart quickly. For example, my holy book claims that Zomgrah creates electricity in the power mains by magic using cotton wool, a pinecone and a small bag of glitter. If you actually tested this by shutting down all the powerstations though, I’d be shown up as sadly misinformed. (At which point I’d be forced to burn you to death as the immoral blaspheming heathen that you are, naturally.)

    If however my belief was that the fundamentals of reality that allow for electricity to be generated in various ways by powerstations were made possible by Zomgrah performing unknowable magic with his pinecone and bag of glitter and that if He didn’t do that then reality would be radically different and electricity an impossibility, then it doesn’t really effect my ability to look at reality (Zomgrah’s magical creation) with a scientific mindset – the reasons might be different but the end point could be effectively the same.

  19. #19 llewelly
    January 29, 2009

    Ken Miller:

    Why does science work? Why is the world around us organized in a way that makes itself accessible to our powers of logic and intellect?

    Human brains evolved to fit the universe. As a brain evolves a larger size, it will also make more useful (and therefor better) predictions, in order to justify its metabolic cost, or the organism taxed with it will produce fewer or no offspring. The world is organized in a way that makes itself accessible to our powers of logic and intellect for the same reason a pothole is exquisitely shaped to fit a puddle of rainwater.

  20. #20 Tyro
    January 29, 2009

    Giberson wrote:

    How is it that “science” is allowed to toss its historical baggage overboard when its best informed leaders decide to do so, even though the ideas continue to circulate on main street, but religion must forever be defined by the ancient baggage carried by its least informed?

    A common remark but is he really saying that he’s more informed about God than Paul or the New Testament writers? I can understand how someone like Joseph Smith can get away with this – he’s claiming to have received direct instructions from God or angels – but is Giberson really ready to say the same?

    If we seek to understand the mind of God through observation and evidence as Giberson implies, then we should discard all of the bible and start from scratch rather than just drop individual passages as we disprove them. Drop the resurrection until we’ve shown it happened rather than assume it happened and wait till it’s disproved. Come to think of it, drop the assumption that God exists until we’ve shown he does. If you want to drop the ancient baggage then drop it all, otherwise it’s obvious special pleading.

    @Captain Obvious:

    Science and faith don’t have to clash as on a basic level they deal with completely separate issues and in completely different ways. A ferverent belief that the world and all on it is overseen the the Sky Pixie Zomgrah The Benevolent doesn’t *have* to interfere with scientific enterprise, just as science can’t ever really finally prove the Zomgrah doesn’t exist, somewhere.

    They certainly deal with issues in completely different ways as you demonstrate. Fath makes up crazy sh*t and waits for absurd levels of disproof, science slowly builds our base of knowledge. But they definitely do not deal with separate issues! The question of whether Zomgrah exists would be a scientific one, just as the question of whether a new species exists. Just because some people have chosen to believe in Zomgrah through faith doesn’t mean it’s not a scientific question, not at all. It also doesn’t mean that faith can ever help us acquire knowledge, it is just a means of getting answers or responses, no different than the methodologies of “hope real hard” and “say the first thing that comes into your head”. They all provide answers but clearly only science can add to our knowledge.

  21. #21 Tulse
    January 29, 2009

    The difficulty here is that Prof. Rosenhouse, like Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne takes the position that methodological naturalism implies philosophical naturalism and that philosophical theism somehow conversely implies a rejection of methodological naturalism.

    A commitment to methodological naturalism pretty much demands a rejection of all theism except the most watered-down deism. As I see it, Coyne’s point is that Miller and Giberson don’t meet that requirement, that their naturalism is modulated by belief in God who is interventionist (at least at some level).

  22. #22 Robert O'Brien
    January 29, 2009

    Given that (minus the odd philosophical relativists) all creationists are religious fundamentalists

    Your caveat is not sufficient. There exist creationists who are neither fundamentalists nor “philosophical relativists.”

  23. #23 SLC
    January 29, 2009

    Re Tulse

    A commitment to methodological naturalism pretty much demands a rejection of all theism except the most watered-down deism. As I see it, Coyne’s point is that Miller and Giberson don’t meet that requirement, that their naturalism is modulated by belief in God who is interventionist (at least at some level)

    This begs the question I posed in my comment. Do Prof. Miller and others who are philosophical theists do good science or not? Neither Mr. Tulse or Prof. Rosenhouse, or Prof. Coyne, or Dr. Dawkins have provided any evidence that the answer is no. Mr. Tulses’ comment is a philosophical claim, not a scientific one.

  24. #24 JimV
    January 29, 2009

    llewelly | January 29, 2009 10:06 AM: “Human brains evolved to fit the universe.”

    Bingo, that is to say, since I agree with it totally it is a great answer!

    That seems like the basic dichotomy to me. Some believe that, for example, since the carbon atom has just the right bonding capability to form long-chain molecules, then obviously the universe was created specifically to suit carbon-based humans. Others of us think humans are just a natural (tiny) part of the universe, and that a better case for our supernatural uniqueness would be if our chemistry were based on phosphorus.

  25. #25 Tulse
    January 29, 2009

    SLC, a lack of commitment to methodological naturalism is a scientific issue, since methodological naturalism is the basis of science.

    The narrow question of whether Miller or other theistic scientists do good work is not really the issue. A Young Earth Creationist could be a fine chemist, an orthodox Jew could do excellent work in materials science, and a charismatic fundamentalist could nonetheless do important research in particle physics. But for all of the individuals, certain domains of science are simply cut off because of their religious commitments — for example, a YEC cannot be an effective geologist, because such views demand rejection of methodological naturalism when it comes to the age of the earth, and a fundamentalist cannot do evolutionary biology for similar reasons.

    In other words, while the religious may do fine science in some domains, religion is incompatible with science as a whole. At some point, a religious scientist has to reject the tenets of science if he or she is going to examine certain aspects of the material world. Most religious scientists avoid this conflict by simply not doing research in those areas, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a conflict, just that they avoid it.

  26. #26 bobxxxx
    January 29, 2009

    James F wrote: I couldn’t disagree more. If all scientists were atheists, it would hand the Religious Right a huge weapon in their fight to weaken or destroy the teaching of evolution in the public schools: “See? Darwinism leads to atheism!”

    Their (correct) claim that “Evolution leads to atheism” isn’t going to do them any good in a federal court. They can’t dumb down science education just because students might throw out the magic god fairy idea if they become scientifically literate.

    I suggest if every single scientist in the world was an atheist, scientists could say “See? Theism leads to scientific illiteracy!”

    I also suggest religious scientists like Ken Miller are absolutely necessary for religious people who indoctrinate their children to believe in a magic fairy. If the children grow up and notice all scientists completely reject religious ideas, they are much more likely to throw out their religious brainwashing, making the world a happier, more intelligent, and much safer place to life in. What I’m saying is a world without religious insanity is a good thing, a worthy goal, and Ken Miller is just getting in the way.

    Ken Miller wants to rid the world of creationism, but he forgets that creationism is just a symptom of a disease, and the disease is religion. A symptom of a disease will not go away until the disease is eradicated.

  27. #27 SWT
    January 29, 2009

    A commitment to methodological naturalism pretty much demands a rejection of all theism except the most watered-down deism.

    No, a commitment to methodological naturalism demands a rejection of theistic explanations as scientific explanations of observed phenomena.

    I’m a theist, with a fairly typical liberal Protestant belief set. None of my religious beliefs have any impact on my scientific work because I recognize that my religious beliefs are not scientific results and have no relevance to my scientific work.

  28. #28 Michael Fugate
    January 29, 2009

    I can look at the evidence and choose one scientific theory over another, but I cannot do that for religions. Why did Professors Miller and Giberson choose Christianity over Hinduism or Islam or Zoroastrianism? Certainly not because it explains the evidence better than the others. I grew up going to church three times each week, my entire family remains religious and I find religion fascinating, but I have not found any evidence for choosing one religion over another.

  29. #29 Bayesian Bouffant, FCD
    January 29, 2009

    Why is this different than modern theology’s near universal rejection of the tyrannical anthropomorphic deity of the Old Testament, so eloquently skewered by Dawkins? How is it that “science” is allowed to toss its historical baggage overboard when its best informed leaders decide to do so, even though the ideas continue to circulate on main street, but religion must forever be defined by the ancient baggage carried by its least informed?

    I think we can all agree though that, wherever we stand, there is a great need for a discussion of how America’s conversation on origins should proceed. We need to wake up to the reality that current strategies have been an abysmal failure and ask some tough questions about why that is. There is a widespread fear on America’s main streets that evolution is destroying a cherished belief in God. As a consequence, anti-evolution has assumed the proportions of a military-industrial complex but the battle is a proxy war, aimed not at evolution, but at materialism. I wonder what would happen if, in the name of pluralism and diplomacy, we could all agree that it was OK for people to believe that evolution was a part of God’s plan.

    So, in other words, Giberson is saying that the religious masses pay no attention to “liberal theologians” who indeed do claim that science and religion are compatible. Can’t say that I disagree with him.

  30. #30 Bayesian Bouffant, FCD
    January 29, 2009

    John Kwok: Ken’s defense of both his religious faith and acceptance of evolution as science is absolutely first-rate

    I’m sorry that you should group the two together. Miller indeed does a fine job of defending science against Creationism, but his religious apologetics are not the least bit convincing. After all, since he agrees that legitimate religious faith (i.e. the kind he says is compatible with science) is beyond verification, then why is his explanation superior to any other?

  31. #31 John Kwok
    January 29, 2009

    Dear bobxxx –

    Your observation should be soundly condemned by all for its acute bigotry:

    “Ken Miller wants to rid the world of creationism, but he forgets that creationism is just a symptom of a disease, and the disease is religion. A symptom of a disease will not go away until the disease is eradicated.”

    As Donald Prothero has noted, nearly half of all professional evolutionary biologists are also devout believers of their respective faiths. Since they are responsible for a lot of good science being published now, don’t you think they’ve been able to treat – to use Stephen Jay’s Gould term – these separate, but equal, magisteria so well as to ensure that they are not conflating the two (unlike those in the Dishonesty Institute, for example).

    I’m not religious myself, but I come from an extensive extended family whose members include Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Deists (of which I am one), Atheists and two Muslims. With such a diverse background, I must remind myself frequently that I should be tolerant of the religious views of so many of my family. May I suggest that you try exhibiting such tolerance too both in your speech and thought?

    Respectfully yours,

    John Kwok

  32. #32 Coriolis
    January 29, 2009

    “He’s right on one score, obviously. That is that certain religious claims, including the age of the earth, a global worldwide flood, and the simultaneous creation of all living things are empirical in nature. As such, they can be tested scientifically, and these particular claims are clearly false. Claims of demonstrative miracles in the past, such as the virgin birth or the resurrection cannot be tested empirically, because there are no data from which to work. On such claims, science has nothing to say one way or the other. Coyne’s complaint on such things, paradoxically, is that they must not have happened because there is no scientific explanation for them. ”

    I have a hard time believing Miller would write something so absurd. He’s supposed to be one of the smart ones right?

    Of course you can scientifically threat the question of whether a woman can give virgin birth, or a man can be resurrected 3 days after he’s dead. Just as much as you can threat the question of how old the earth is and what happened to it back then. In all cases we’re talking about events that are far in the past and what happened (or didn’t happen) can only be inferred from current data.

    The only defense of these miracles is that somehow the laws of nature as we understand them now were either suspended or changed in the past (by god or some unknown naturalistic phenomenon which is effectively like god). I.e., how do you know for sure that carbon-14 had the same half-life it has now millions of years ago (or that it decayed at all)? But that type of defense applies just as well to carbon dating (or anything else in this vein you might want to pick), as it does to virgin birth or resurrection.

    There is no good reason to reject one if you’re going to accept the other. That is, apart from looking too much of an idiot if you accept them all.

  33. #33 Bayesian Bouffant, FCD
    January 29, 2009

    A commitment to methodological naturalism pretty much demands a rejection of all theism except the most watered-down deism.

    To expand on this, consider Miller’s acceptance of Biblical miracles. Is the existence of miracles compatible with methodological naturalism? What good is any scientific experiment if you acknowledge that the pixies could be ginning up the data? If you dismiss present-day miracles, but accept past Biblical miracles from a document you acknowledge in other respects to be unreliable, then you open yourself up to criticism on epistemological grounds.

  34. #34 SLC
    January 29, 2009

    Re Tulse

    In other words, while the religious may do fine science in some domains, religion is incompatible with science as a whole. At some point, a religious scientist has to reject the tenets of science if he or she is going to examine certain aspects of the material world. Most religious scientists avoid this conflict by simply not doing research in those areas, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a conflict, just that they avoid it.

    Would Mr. Tulse care to inform us as to what domain of science Prof. Miller would not do research in?

    By the way, my PhD thesis adviser (physics) was an old earth creationist so obviously he would not have been able to do research in the area of evolutionary biology. However, he was also a conservative Protestant Christian, unlike Prof. Miller.

  35. #35 Glen Davidson
    January 29, 2009

    Ken Miller is rock-solid on biology, but not so much on “cosmological ID.” On the first point, who can really complain what extraneous beliefs he has? On the second point, though, one sees where, rather than depending on the epistemology that appears to be the only kind that can tell us anything, he puts god in our knowledge gap.

    So I think his religion is a problem, if not a huge one. We need to point out that he’s not at all like Behe (no matter what Coyne states) when discussing biology, at least for the purposes of science, and that he is neither expert in cosmology nor should anyone adopt his manner of “explaining” it.

    The fact is that Miller makes good philosophical points regarding irreproducible results, which are often involved in religious claims. Irreproducible results fall outside of science and its methods, not because they may (or may not) be supernatural, rather because they are irreproducible. This is why science often prefers not to address religious questions, as a miraculous irreproducible event could have occurred in the past yet science strictly can’t rule it in or out.

    The problem with that is the court scenario, where I claim that the Ferrari in my driveway was not stolen by me or by anyone else, rather it came down in a cloud out of the heavens. Well, maybe it did, in fact, but the mere philosophical possibility of that is not interesting to the judge or to any sane jury.

    The flip-side of that example is that people are screwy, and they often have beliefs and biases that are based on events which cannot be investigated, including mental events. Science is not concerned with the question of whether or not Miller thinks that his wife is the greatest female ever to have been on earth (or the worst, however that may go), or more to the issue, if Miller believes that he saw an alien or a ghost. What of that? I’ll admit that the belief that one has witnessed irreproducible events sometimes indicates that a person’s mental state is not ideal, but in many cases it’s just one of those things…

    It seems that Coyne just can’t bear the thought of a scientist having personal quirks, beliefs that cannot be demonstrated, or a view which cannot hold up in court. If this were demanded of humans in order that they be considered scientists (not what Coyne is proposing–but how does he want us to react to his essay?), not only theistic scientists, but many non-theists, as well, would not be considered credible scientists. After all, how many scientists have political views which are hardly based on sufficient evidence?

    Beyond that, I would point out that the early evolutionary writings of Darwin actually invoke god for abiogenesis (which it really is), and discuss evolution as conforming to the law-like actions of a kind of deistic god. Again, maybe that’s not what I’d call a scientific ideal (plugging gaps with god is rhetorically, but not scientifically, effective), but it shows how one may do excellent science not only with a belief in (or at least accepting a possibility of) god outside of science, rather with god actually lurking on the edges of that science.

    My point is that scientists are just humans, not the ideal machines that Coyne seems to wish that they were. It’s possible that Darwin’s (and the mystical Wallace’s) creative activities needed to go beyond known science to incorporate god, even though we would not include god within evolutionary science (and abiogenesis) today (I don’t at all deny that we need to strip religion and mysticism from maturing science). The creative side is what often is neglected in discussions of “what science is,” likely because it is messy and often “unscientific” in its early phases.

    I just think that Coyne is pushing too much against the imperfections of humanity, including their penchant for belief in undemonstrable phenomena. The latter must be kept out of scientific papers, not necessarily out of scientists’ lives.

    We shouldn’t pretend that Miller’s and Giberson’s apologetics work for anyone who doesn’t badly wish to believe.

    What is not justified is Coyne’s suggestion that Miller is closer to Behe than to Dawkins, because, in any way that matters in biological science, that is simply not the case.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/6mb592

  36. #36 Robert O'Brien
    January 29, 2009

    Is the existence of miracles compatible with methodological naturalism?

    Yes. The scientist first tries to exhaust possible naturalistic explanations. If those fail, then he either accepts a supernatural explanation or reserves judgment.

  37. #37 bobxxxx
    January 29, 2009

    John Kwok, sorry, but ever since 9/11/2001 I have had zero tolerance for all religious ideas, no matter how moderate the deluded people are who believe in those childish ideas.

    Religion is most definitely a disease, and it must be eradicated. Better science education and zero tolerance of religious insanity is the only possible way to get rid of it. The creationists and the terrorists need moderate religious people like Ken Miller, and that’s why I say Miller is part of the problem.

    By the way, the members of the National Academy of Sciences are 93% atheist. Isn’t that interesting?

  38. #38 John Kwok
    January 29, 2009

    @ Glen D,

    Thanks for your intelligent, quite eloquent, remarks. Maybe you can deliver the same message to P Z Myers too, since he also considers Ken Miler to be a creationist, which I know is most definitely not true.

    Appreciatively yours,

    John

  39. #39 Robert O'Brien
    January 29, 2009

    Their (correct) claim that “Evolution leads to atheism” isn’t going to do them any good in a federal court. They can’t dumb down science education just because students might throw out the magic god fairy idea if they become scientifically literate.

    I suggest if every single scientist in the world was an atheist, scientists could say “See? Theism leads to scientific illiteracy!”

    I also suggest religious scientists like Ken Miller are absolutely necessary for religious people who indoctrinate their children to believe in a magic fairy. If the children grow up and notice all scientists completely reject religious ideas, they are much more likely to throw out their religious brainwashing, making the world a happier, more intelligent, and much safer place to life in. What I’m saying is a world without religious insanity is a good thing, a worthy goal, and Ken Miller is just getting in the way.

    Ken Miller wants to rid the world of creationism, but he forgets that creationism is just a symptom of a disease, and the disease is religion. A symptom of a disease will not go away until the disease is eradicated.

    The only thing worse than a damn moron is a pretentious damn moron like bobxxxx.

  40. #40 bobxxxx
    January 29, 2009

    John Kwok wrote: “May I suggest that you try exhibiting such tolerance to both in your speech and thought?

    Translation: “bobxxxx, shut up.”

  41. #41 Robert O'Brien
    January 29, 2009

    By the way, the members of the National Academy of Sciences are 93% atheist. Isn’t that interesting?

    Who gives a ****, dumb ass? Not one of those 93% is remotely the equal of Newton, Gauss, Euler, Cauchy, Riemann, Faraday, Kelvin, Boyle, or scores of other Christian scientists.

    Quit while you are behind, dimbulb.

  42. #42 John Kwok
    January 29, 2009

    @ bobxxxx,

    Emotionally I could agree with your harsh assessment since I’m a native New Yorker and saw the World Trade Center in flames, and then later, its ash cloud plume after both buildings had collapsed. It would be all too easy for me to lash out at both of my Muslim relatives, simply because they studied Islam in Syria. But I won’t, especially since one, a fellow native-born American, has demonstrated ample tolerance and moderation, especially under the most trying of circumstances, since he was the US Army Muslim chaplain falsely accused of treason a few years ago.

    On another, more personal note, I was privileged to have as a graduate school mentor, eminent evolutionary ecologist Michael L. Rosenzweig, who is an observant Conservative Jew. Perhaps more successfully than Ken Miller, Mike has kept separately his devout religious faith and his commitment towards excellent research in evolutionary ecology and conservation biology. I can’t fault either Ken or Mike for possessing their particular religious beliefs, simply because they have also demonstrated that they are sound scientists capable of doing superb research in the biological sciences.

    Again I advise you to show some tolerance please.

    Sincerely yours,

    John Kwok

  43. #43 bobxxxx
    January 29, 2009

    Robert O’Brien, you could try explaining why you disagree with me. You could try to explain why my disdain for religious insanity is a bad thing. It’s interesting that you prefer to just insult me.

  44. #44 bobxxxx
    January 29, 2009

    I think I know what Robert O’Brien’s problem is. He’s offended because he has a childish belief in a magic fairy.

    John Kwok wrote: “Again I advise you to show some tolerance please.”

    Again you use nice words to tell me to shut up. Sorry, but I have nothing but contempt for people who believe in magic fairies. They should grow up. There’s no magic in the universe.

  45. #45 John Kwok
    January 29, 2009

    @ bobxxxx,

    Unfortunately for you, that “magic in the universe” has been the source of some of our greatest myths, our greatest prose, our greatest poetry. I think one can at least learn to be tolerant of differing faiths – and maybe I just feel this way because I had gone to college in the state founded by Roger Williams – and disagree vehemently with their tenets without sounding intolerant.

    John

  46. #46 Robert O'Brien
    January 29, 2009

    You’ll have to forgive me bobxxxx, but loudmouth, pretentious atheists (or as I like to call them, theomachoi) inspire the same sort of revulsion and vexation in me as when I turn up my shoe and discover I’ve accidentally stepped in dog ****.

    If anything, I would say that the increase in atheism among scientists has accompanied a decline in truly monumental scientists, such as those I mentioned above. Even the clown Weinberg, despite his Nobel prize, will only be a footnote (at most) in 100 years. By way of contrast, I can’t open a math book without seeing Gauss this, Euler that.

  47. #47 Robert O'Brien
    January 29, 2009

    I think I know what Robert O’Brien’s problem is. He’s offended because he has a childish belief in a magic fairy.

    You have already demonstrated your lack of native intelligence. Now, you are just being gratuitous.

  48. #48 Kevin
    January 29, 2009

    “if you are willing to criticize Ken, are you also prepared to criticize prominent, religiously-devout biologists like Francis Collins and Mike Rosenzweig too”

    errr sure! if they believe in a sky-daddy and supper-miracle magic then we can all make fun of them…

  49. #49 tomh
    January 29, 2009

    bobxxxx wrote:
    I think I know what Robert O’Brien’s problem is. He’s offended because he has a childish belief in a magic fairy.

    Along with about 85% of Americans. I don’t see why people make a big deal out of the fact that Miller can believe in magic and still do his job. Let’s face it, being a scientist is a job description, not a philosophical exercise. Those 85% of Americans that believe in magic still manage to go to work and do their jobs. What’s irritating to some is when Miller mixes up his magical beliefs and his work, claims it all fits together and then trumpets it loudly in the public square, books, talks, whatever. But, hey, this is America, a guy can still make a buck in lots of different ways. Behe makes his, Miller, Coyne, they’re all out there arguing about magic, some pro, some con, all grist for the mill.

  50. #50 Coriolis
    January 29, 2009

    Glen:
    “The fact is that Miller makes good philosophical points regarding irreproducible results, which are often involved in religious claims. Irreproducible results fall outside of science and its methods, not because they may (or may not) be supernatural, rather because they are irreproducible.”

    This is kind of baloney, mostly because there’s no way to know if something is irreproducible if you don’t try. Think about this – if a man was pronounced dead in the modern world and then started walking around 5 days later, what do you think the reaction of scientists would be?

    Would we say “Hey it’s a wierd single event, outside of our domain”, or would everybody be doing their best trying to figure out how the hell it happened?

    I think we both know what the answer is.

    Scientists aren’t interested in religious claims not because they are single irreproducible events, but because they don’t think they were actual events.

  51. #51 John Kwok
    January 29, 2009

    @ Kevin,

    Well I subscribe to Klingon Cosmology. Do you wish to criticize me too?

    I don’t care what Collins and Rosenzweig believe in, since they know what is – and what isn’t valid science, a distinction lost on the DI morons.

    John

  52. #52 Robert O'Brien
    January 29, 2009

    Well I subscribe to Klingon Cosmology. Do you wish to criticize me too?

    Pre or post ridges?

  53. #53 Strider
    January 29, 2009

    John Kwok
    I’ll criticize both Collins and Rosenzweig. My academic uncle was also mentored by Rosenzweig, and is also religious, and, in my mind, I’ve never heard him successfully defend how he reconciles the cognitive dissonance between his excellent empirical mind with that of his religious mind. At least my academic uncle tried to, however tenuously, connect it with some economic theory rather than Collins’ ridiculous triune waterfall conversion story. I’ve never heard Rosenzweig talk about the topic, I’ve only met him once, but I’d be willing to bet his rationalization would be just as unconvincing as Miller’s, Collins’, and Giberson’s.

  54. #54 Kevin
    January 29, 2009

    wow we have Kwok and O’Brian dancing the crazy believer gig today….

    “If those fail, then he either accepts a supernatural explanation or reserves judgment.”

    no no no. don’t be stupid you moron! ….A scientist accepts that he does not yet know enough to explain the phenomena. He does not run to fairies and unicorns for answers..

  55. #55 Strider
    January 29, 2009

    John Kwok
    Also, I’d be willing to be that most atheist scientists couldn’t care less what others’ religious beliefs are as long as they keep them to themselves or amongst their religious colleagues. I am not interested in killing their god at all. I can’t understand how these eminent scientists do it, I find it illogical and untenable, but that’s fine for them. HOWEVER. As Jason wrote after the paragraph from Giberson’s response, when you start using your irrational beliefs, and they are irrational, to try and get legislation passed or forced down our throats then I have a BIG problem with you and I’m NOT going to be silent about it.

  56. #56 Kevin
    January 29, 2009

    “@ Kevin, Well I subscribe to Klingon Cosmology. Do you wish to criticize me too?”

    Sure! You are a fool to believe such an idea that is unsupported by any measurable information.

    I don’t care unless a) you are trying to teach kids this in a tax-support school or b) blowing up people who don’t believe as you do, or, c) post increasing obnoxious comments on JR’s nice blog.

    Then I care.

  57. #57 Robert O'Brien
    January 29, 2009

    A scientist accepts that he does not yet know enough to explain the phenomena. He does not run to fairies and unicorns for answers..

    Who said anything about fairies and unicorns? Did you play with your sister’s toys and dress up in her clothes as a kid? What else would explain your fixation with unicorns and fairies?

    In any event, no one elected you spokesperson for scientists, tinkerbell.

  58. #58 Kevin
    January 29, 2009

    As likely as you sacrificing puppies to your demented god you twit!=?!

    If you don’t like fairies (which I find hard to believe from your posts) what brand of “supernatural” being do you fancy?

    Sprites? or nymphs?

  59. #59 Ian
    January 29, 2009

    It seems to me that Coyne has no problem with Miller or his choice of religion, and no desire to eject him from the evolutionist camp. It’s Miller’s book with which Coyne takes issue because it’s therein that Miller essentially makes the same unsupported claim that the creationists do: there’s a god who has intervened to create the world he wanted.

    Miller has done invaluable service to evolution, but broadly speaking, anyone who believes in a divine creation is a creationist. Miller’s brush strokes are watercolors compared with the ham-fisted oily daubs of the fundamentalist creationists, but he nonetheless paints a similar picture.

    Miller is being rather disingenuous when he claims “In fact, I have argued exactly the opposite. Evolution is not rigged, and religious belief does not require one to postulate a God who fixes the game….”

    Isn’t this precisely what Miller is arguing when he claims, without a shred of support for the claim, that his god intervenes at the quantum level? It’s this which is being addressed here, not anyone’s religious faith. Religion is a personal choice (although too many people end up being herded mindlessly into that choice by family and community), but when that religion starts making claims which lend themselves to scientific scrutiny, the proponents of those claims cannot cry “Foul!” if science kicks the legs out from under their unsupported assertions or requires that they support these claims.

  60. #60 Michael Fugate
    January 29, 2009

    I would love to see the regression of scientific greatness on religious belief. Operationally defining “greatness” might be difficult, but I am sure it could be done.

  61. #61 heddle
    January 29, 2009

    Kevin,

    “if you are willing to criticize Ken, are you also prepared to criticize prominent, religiously-devout biologists like Francis Collins and Mike Rosenzweig too”

    errr sure! if they believe in a sky-daddy and supper-miracle magic then we can all make fun of them…

    No not all. In fact, very few scientists laugh at a Miller or a Collins. You can laugh like a hyena or bray like a jackass, that’s your privilege. But in the scientific community we will read the journal articles and listen to the seminars of people the likes of Miller and Collins, and we won’t even know who the hell this “Kevin” is. Science is the ultimate meritocracy; the only thing that matters is what you produce. Miller and Collins have produced. Have you? If not, then nobody gives a rat’s ass that you are laughing.

  62. #62 386sx
    January 29, 2009

    The only defense of these miracles is that somehow the laws of nature as we understand them now were either suspended or changed in the past (by god or some unknown naturalistic phenomenon which is effectively like god).

    Right. Except for evolution. God would never touch evolution. That would be like bribing a referee or cheating at cards or something. This is what Mr. Miller says about it:

    “In fact, I have argued exactly the opposite. Evolution is not rigged, and religious belief does not require one to postulate a God who fixes the game, bribes the referees, or tricks natural selection. Unfortunately, Coyne does not seem to appreciate this point.”

    Miracles are okay, except for in the case evolution. If God performed any miracles on evolution, then that would be like rigging the lottery, or maybe stealing from the cookie jar, or cheating at monopoly or scrabble or something like that. Other miracles are fine though. Like say, creating universes and stigmata and stuff like that.

    But don’t mess with evolution though. That would be bad if God messed with evolution. (But it would be okay for people to mess with evolution because they are methodological naturalists, unlike God who is both philosophically and methodologically supernatural.)

  63. #63 Kevin
    January 29, 2009

    You have some very odd beliefs that you repeat ad nauseum. People make fun of you. They don’t care that you may at one time have been a hero or produced somethign of value.

    On this blog you type endless reams of electrons devoted to your imaginary friend.

    and I was here from the beggining way before you started commenting.

  64. #64 Robert O'Brien
    January 29, 2009

    If you don’t like fairies (which I find hard to believe from your posts) what brand of “supernatural” being do you fancy?

    Fancy? The only way you could be more of an effete snob is if you peppered your words with unnecessary u’s.

    You have some very odd beliefs that you repeat ad nauseum[sic].

    That’s ad nauseam, Lord Foppington.

  65. #65 heddle
    January 29, 2009

    Kevin, you missed my point.

    The whole world might be laughing at me, that’s my problem. But the scientific community is not laughing at Miller or Collins. You can like or not like them apples, but there they are. You are perhaps confusing the scientific community with science blogs commenters. It’s a common enough mistake–among some science blog commenters–generally the ones that are not actually scientists.

  66. #66 tomh
    January 29, 2009

    heddle wrote:
    Science is the ultimate meritocracy; the only thing that matters is what you produce. Miller and Collins have produced.

    Of course, no one is laughing at the science they have produced, as I’m sure you well know. Those who are laughing at them are laughing at the way they combine magic and science and serve it up for public consumption in the form of books meant for the general public. It has nothing to do with whatever they do at their jobs. When one writes opinions for the public, not for scientists about one’s work, one is certainly fair game for any critic who wants to spend the time to ridicule it.

  67. #67 Kevin
    January 29, 2009

    @heddle

    maybe “making fun” was too harsh. The question was “are you also prepared to criticize” and so I answer YES! and if they profess these beliefs in public then there should be no surprise that they are called on them.

    @O’Brien so you are gay. who cares? why do you keep bringing up the fact that you like to have special relationships with men. no one else did.

  68. #68 John Kwok
    January 29, 2009

    @ Kevin,

    You fell into my trap. I am actually a Deist, as I indicated in a previous post in this blog, referring to my large extended family that contains many who have a diverse range of religious beliefs. I’ve used the “Klingon Cosmology” metaphor merely to irritate those like Bill Dembski who are intolerant of their religious views.

    @ Strider,

    Mike Rosenzweig hasn’t made as much regarding his religious views as Ken has. However, I vaguely recall an article Mike had published in a popular Jewish journal – I think this was soon after the Edwards vs. Aguilard ruling by the Supreme Court – in which he affirmed his strong commitment to both his devout religious faith and to evolutionary biology, and expressed, with utmost eloquence, why he saw no contradiction between them at all.

  69. #69 Robert O'Brien
    January 29, 2009

    Mr. Kwok,

    You might appreciate the Star Trek spoof at 18:45:

    http://www.familyguydirect.com/watch.php?episode=411

  70. #70 Kevin
    January 29, 2009

    “You fell into my trap” what? what trap?

    You claimed you believed in nonsense and asked to be criticised. I obliged.

    not a very sticky trap….

  71. #71 Tulse
    January 29, 2009

    Glen:

    Irreproducible results fall outside of science and its methods, not because they may (or may not) be supernatural, rather because they are irreproducible.

    Each species is unique, with its own irreproducible history, but we don’t argue we can’t study them. The generation of the current continents depended on contingencies that we will never reproduce (and physically can’t, but that doesn’t mean we can’t understand the processes involved. Our solar system came to be due to a confluence of forces that are unique in the cosmos, but we can extrapolate from what we do know about such forces to explore its genesis.

    “Irreproducible” events happen all the time, and are examined by science, using the existence of principles that cut across all unique events. Alleged miracles are no exception.

    Robert:

    The scientist first tries to exhaust possible naturalistic explanations. If those fail, then he either accepts a supernatural explanation or reserves judgment.

    No. If a scientist accepts any supernatural explanation at any point, then he or she is not committed to methodological naturalism. That’s the point of this disagreement. Miller and other theistic scientists are willing in certain domains to reject methodological naturalism, which is rejecting science (or, more accurately, rejecting a scientific approach for those domains). They essentially argue for a “God of the gaps” — they jettison their scientific skepticism.

    The problem with Miller et al.’s approach is that there is no articulated principle as to which gaps demand science and which are OK to postulate supernatural intervention. Miller somehow wants humanity to remain special, so he postulates some kind of vague divine involvement in our origin. But why stop there? If Miller’s god can intervene at the quantum level to create homo sapiens, why can’t he jigger the results of particle accelerators, or gene sequencing, or geological processes? If I am a full-blown Young Earth Creationist, why can’t I say “Well, Miller allows for God to be involved in human evolution — I just change the locus and frequency of divine intervention. Why should you choose his position over mine?” Once one admits to possibility of supernatural intervention, then all bets are off, and it is up to the theist to explain why YEC is somehow absurd when their considered, thoughtful liberal theism that also postulates divine intervention is actually reasonable.

  72. #72 Kevin
    January 29, 2009

    errr Tulse….

    “Irreproducible” events happen all the time”

    I think that science requires the results of test you perform to be reproducible, not that that the stuff you are studying can be reproduced. If there was a car crash, it would be pretty hard to reproduce it exactly right, but when different invesigators measure the skid marks and estimate the speed, or angle of impact, good science dictates that they be close if not the same.

    same with lab data. not all data points are going to match, but the results should be the same overall.

  73. #73 John Kwok
    January 29, 2009

    @ Kevin,

    What trap? You’ve flunked reading comprehension. Certainly it is illogical for me to state that I am a Deist, and then, a few posts later, a believer in Klingon Cosmology. You should have realized that I was pulling your leg, trying to get you to say something rash, and you succeeded.

    John

  74. #74 James F
    January 29, 2009

    Robert O’Brien wrote:

    Your caveat is not sufficient. There exist creationists who are neither fundamentalists nor “philosophical relativists.”

    To which additional category or categories do these creationists belong? Unless your objection is to my use of the term “fundamentalist” (which, to clarify, I don’t mean in the strict Scopes Trial sense), I honestly can’t think of creationists who fall outside my caveat, but I would certainly like to know about them.

  75. #75 Jim
    January 29, 2009

    “…while theology, let us be blunt, mostly makes it up as it goes along. ”

    uh, what part of theology was not made up?

  76. #76 John Kwok
    January 29, 2009

    @ James F,

    Maybe he’s reading a bit of Robert Pennock’s work lately and has gotten inspired?

    John

    P. S. Hope you check into you know where and comment accordingly. Thanks, I would appreciate it.

  77. #77 James F
    January 29, 2009

    bobxxx wrote:

    Their (correct) claim that “Evolution leads to atheism” isn’t going to do them any good in a federal court. They can’t dumb down science education just because students might throw out the magic god fairy idea if they become scientifically literate.

    First, the claim that evolution necessarily leads to atheism is demonstrably untrue; see, for example, Miller, Giberson, Collins, Rosenzweig, et al., and the signatories of the Clergy Letter Project. Second, while they shouldn’t be able to do so, that is exactly what they’re trying to do in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, and elsewhere.

    I also suggest religious scientists like Ken Miller are absolutely necessary for religious people who indoctrinate their children to believe in a magic fairy. If the children grow up and notice all scientists completely reject religious ideas, they are much more likely to throw out their religious brainwashing, making the world a happier, more intelligent, and much safer place to life in. What I’m saying is a world without religious insanity is a good thing, a worthy goal, and Ken Miller is just getting in the way.

    How are religious scientists absolutely necessary for these people? I daresay that your typical Southern Baptist preacher railing against evolution has never heard of Ken Miller and probably hasn’t met any scientists.

    I respect the consistency of your anti-theistic perspective, I just contend that from the standpoint of defeating antievolution proponents, religious scientists help more than they hinder the cause.

  78. #78 Robert O'Brien
    January 29, 2009

    To which additional category or categories do these creationists belong? Unless your objection is to my use of the term “fundamentalist” (which, to clarify, I don’t mean in the strict Scopes Trial sense), I honestly can’t think of creationists who fall outside my caveat, but I would certainly like to know about them.

    Well, I think I can be classified as a species of old earth creationist, in that I am skeptical of universal common descent. Unlike most creationists, though, I have little anxiety concerning the historicity of Adam and Eve.

    Berlinski may be another example. In any event, I don’t think I’m the only element in the set.

  79. #79 Jason Rosenhouse
    January 29, 2009

    John Kwok –

    I’d appreciate it if you could lay off the comments for a while. You don’t need to respond to everything that people write. It’s annoying to see my recent comments sidebar filled with comments from one person. Just take it easy.

  80. #80 Tulse
    January 29, 2009

    I think that science requires the results of test you perform to be reproducible, not that that the stuff you are studying can be reproduced.

    Which was pretty much my point. Alleged miracles may be unique, but the principles by which we would investigate them, or any phenomenon, are not. In that sense it is unclear what is supposed to be meant by “irreproducible” — the alleged parting of the Red Sea is just as unique and “irreproducible” as the formation of Earth’s moon. So when Glen writes:

    Irreproducible results fall outside of science and its methods, not because they may (or may not) be supernatural, rather because they are irreproducible. This is why science often prefers not to address religious questions, as a miraculous irreproducible event could have occurred in the past yet science strictly can’t rule it in or out.

    my point was simply that “irreproducible events” happen all the time — that doesn’t make such events outside the purview of science.

  81. #81 James F
    January 29, 2009

    Robert O’Brien wrote:

    Well, I think I can be classified as a species of old earth creationist, in that I am skeptical of universal common descent. Unlike most creationists, though, I have little anxiety concerning the historicity of Adam and Eve.

    Berlinski may be another example. In any event, I don’t think I’m the only element in the set.

    I see your point. I would amend my antievolution categories as follows, then.

    I. Those who invoke supernatural or otherwise untestable causation to explain biodiversity
    A. YECs, OECs, and IDCs who invoke supernatural causation on the part of God or similar higher power
    B. Raelians (and in theory but not in practice IDCs) and others who invoke the intervention of extraterrestrial life (by Shermer’s Last Law, indistinguishable from the supernatural)

    II. Philosophical relativists (“How do we really know anything?”)

    Supernatural causation is usually the name of the game, but not 100% of the time. People like Steve Fuller and Robert Crowther are definitely in the second category. Berlinksi may actually be in both categories since he has in at least one debate been touted as a pro-ID theist.

  82. #82 Anton Mates
    January 29, 2009

    Robert,

    Yes. The scientist first tries to exhaust possible naturalistic explanations. If those fail, then he either accepts a supernatural explanation or reserves judgment.

    But it’s not possible to exhaust all naturalistic explanations. Any set of empirical data can be accounted for by some naturalistic explanation; show me a choir of angels blowing up the Moon and I can account for it by mass delusion or telekinetic winged mutants or holograms plus a death ray or what have you.

    The methodological naturalist reserves judgment when s/he has no grounds to prefer one naturalistic explanation over another. There’s no conditions under which such a scientist could be forced to reject naturalism entirely.

  83. #83 Lycosid
    January 29, 2009

    Philosophize all you want. These are the facts. Science is a system that uses empirical evidence to support a hypothesis. Religion is a system that uses feelings (or whatever ramblings someone wrote in a book 2000 years ago) to support a wish.

    The former works. The latter is harmless at best and an incitement to violence at worst. Quit the mental masturbation.

  84. #84 Jack Kolinski
    January 29, 2009

    to bobxxxx:
    I’m with you 100% on “religion is the problem” (“evil” sounds too religious) and irreconcilable with science. Are scientists doing anything to figure out WHY religion is so powerful and how to un-brainwash its adherents? These blog discussions are “fun” but science may only have an eight year window in this country before the Palin crowd is back in power. There are apparently “genes” that may be identified with a tendency to be “religious.” There was a recent blog here about a study showing how minority views can be manipulated to reach unanimous consensus. These are just two possible examples of science that MIGHT be useful in developing methods/techniques/experiments to un-brainwash people who believe in Santa Claus and who do not want science messing with his beard. I realize that virtually ALL these blogs and bloggers are doing everything within their power to defeat creationism/ID, but is anybody focusing on the “root” problem–religion–and trying to use ALL pertinent branches of science (genetics; behavioral psychology)to figure out how to eradicate this horrific disease?
    Don’t ever back off from fighting religion or these so-called conciliatory seekers of tolerance. “Appeasement,” despite having been unfairly substituted for “respectful negotiation” by Dubya vis-a-vis Obama’s intentions to talk with Iran, isn’t going to work with religious fascists. The ONLY reason they no longer burn people like you and me at the stake is because we no longer allow them to do so.
    “Nothing more is required for evil men to succeed than for good men to stand idly by and do nothing.”–One of those Enlightenment guys. Too lazy to go look it up. Probably a “deist” like John the “tolerant” (you could be executed for being an atheist back then) but he was moving in the right direction. I hope to hear from you.

  85. #85 mandrake
    January 29, 2009

    Who gives a ****, dumb ass? Not one of those 93% is remotely the equal of Newton, Gauss, Euler, Cauchy, Riemann, Faraday, Kelvin, Boyle, or scores of other Christian scientists.
    That is subjective.

  86. #86 SLC
    January 29, 2009

    Re Robert O’Brien

    Who gives a ****, dumb ass? Not one of those 93% is remotely the equal of Newton, Gauss, Euler, Cauchy, Riemann, Faraday, Kelvin, Boyle, or scores of other Christian scientists.
    That is subjective.

    I don’t know about that. Folks like Feynman, Gellmann, Schwinger, Einstein, Weinberg are pretty fair country scientists and none of them believes in a personal god.

  87. #87 llewelly
    January 29, 2009

    Not one of those 93% is remotely the equal of Newton, Gauss, Euler, Cauchy, Riemann, Faraday, Kelvin, Boyle, or scores of other Christian scientists.

    There are plenty among those 93% who are. The perception that modern scientists cannot equal the ancient greats is just another golden-age fallacy. But more importantly, 150 years ago, nearly all scientists believed in god. Today, many do not. In other words – the trend toward atheism appears to be correlated with the advance of science. (Although it seems unlikely the connection is something so trivial as science causes atheism, or atheism causes science.)

  88. #88 Explicit Atheist
    January 29, 2009

    Posted by: SLC | January 29, 2009 7:10 AM

    “Thus, the argument here is, IMHO, not a scientific one at all but a philosophical one, and like most philosophical arguments cannot be resolved by empirical evidence. The only issue is, does Prof. Miller and others who, like him are philosophical theists, do good science? Thus far, the critics of Prof. Miller have failed to provide evidence that he does not do good science.”

    I disagree that that is the “only issue”. The other issue, and it also is an important issue, is whether or not the philosophy is sensible and logical. Some beliefs are foolish, other beliefs are well justified, and this distinction is really important, not just abstractly but pragmatically. We have a democratic civic obligation, in fact its an ethical obligation, to reject foolish beliefs and adopt well justified beliefs in general. When Prof. Miller says that God intervenes at the quantum level is that a sensible and logical opinion? The answer is no, because there is no sensible and logical answer to the question “why would a god do that”?

  89. #89 Robert O'Brien
    January 29, 2009

    That is subjective.

    No.

    There are plenty among those 93% who are.

    No.

    The perception that modern scientists cannot equal the ancient greats is just another golden-age fallacy.

    I did not say they cannot hayseed. I said they do not.

  90. #90 Robert O'Brien
    January 29, 2009

    Quit the mental masturbation.

    Medice, cura te ipsum.

  91. #91 MIchael Fugate
    January 30, 2009

    It is subjective unless you can operationally define scientific greatness and test the relationship. It is an hypothesis, but so far the justification is anectodal.

  92. #92 heddle
    January 30, 2009

    Explicit Atheist ,

    We have a democratic civic obligation, in fact its an ethical obligation, to reject foolish beliefs and adopt well justified beliefs in general.

    My oh my! An ethical obligation? Gee, aren’t you the important fellow!

    Now some atheists are liberal and some conservative and some libertarian and some are socialist. Let’s assume that covers the spectrum. They can’t all be right. One political viewpoint is the most beneficial for mankind. To advocate any of the others, which are suboptimal for the planet, is not justifiable. So you, as the Czar of Justifiability gets to pick. You get to be the Mind Police Commissioner. Which will it be, Oh Enlightened One? Once your sage-like decision is determined on the basis of pure rational thought absent any presuppositions that only little people possess, once you just work it out like an axiom-free physical law, will you begin the process of informing your fellow atheists who hold positions that are not well justified? It’s your ethical duty, oh Brilliant One!

  93. #93 SLC
    January 30, 2009

    Re Robert O’Brien

    Mr. O’Brien has incorrectly identified Issac Newton as a Christian scientist. By the standards of most Christian denominations, Newton was not a Christian because he rejected the concept of the Trinity. During his lifetime, had his views been known, he would have been branded as a heretic.

  94. #94 Peter Henderson
    January 30, 2009

    But there are many well-informed believers who have come to peace with science, and who live happily on the rich, but thinly populated, turf where the magisteria overlap

    This is quite correct. Here’s just one scientist from this wee part of the world who really made her mark on science, despite her faith (I’m being facetious here):

    http://vega.org.uk/video/programme/69

    That is the task of defending scientific rationalism from those who, in the name of religion would subvert it beyond all recognition. In that critical struggle, Jerry, scientists who are also people of faith are critical allies, and you would do well not to turn them away

    A whole hearted YES. Well said Ken Miller.

    Perhaps, but a person inclined to go this route should also ask what can be inferred about God’s plan from the fact that he does his creating through billions of years of sadistic bloodsport. An all-powerful, all-loving God is not the first thing that comes to mind.

    Now where have I heard that statement before ? Ahhhh…here it is:

    Thus evolution would be the most wasteful, inefficient, cruel method that one could conceive to create man. Would an omniscient, omnipotent, loving God use such a process to create man in three billion years when He could have created men instantaneously if He chose

    direct from the AiG website:

    http://www.answersingenesis.org/creation/v11/i4/christian.asp

    As I have said many times before, this isn’t an issue over whether or not God does or does not exist. Those are philosophical arguments, not scientific ones. Ken Miller is spot on. Alienating Christians who accept science only plays into the hands of the YECs such as Answers in Genesis etc.

  95. #95 Explicit Atheist
    January 30, 2009

    Posted by: heddle | January 30, 2009 5:02 AM

    “My oh my! An ethical obligation? Gee, aren’t you the important fellow!”

    What does the assertion that we have an ethical obligation to reject foolish beliefs and adopt well justified beliefs have to do with asserters importance? Do we or do we not have an ethical obligation to reject foolish beliefs and adopt well justified beliefs?

    “Now some atheists are liberal and some conservative and some libertarian and some are socialist. Let’s assume that covers the spectrum. They can’t all be right. One political viewpoint is the most beneficial for mankind. To advocate any of the others, which are suboptimal for the planet, is not justifiable. So you, as the Czar of Justifiability gets to pick. You get to be the Mind Police Commissioner. Which will it be, Oh Enlightened One? Once your sage-like decision is determined on the basis of pure rational thought absent any presuppositions that only little people possess, once you just work it out like an axiom-free physical law, will you begin the process of informing your fellow atheists who hold positions that are not well justified? It’s your ethical duty, oh Brilliant One!”

    Look, you are attacking me with lots of silly hyperbole, you aren’t responding to my argument that the claim that god intervenes only at the quantum level is not sensible or logical. Why would a god intervene only at the quantum level? If, as I assert, there is no sensible\logical explanation for a god doing that then I see no reason to back-away from my assertion that it is not a sensible or logical belief and your are merely throwing adjectives to cover-up this lack of justification for that particular belief.

  96. #96 heddle
    January 30, 2009

    Explicit Atheist,

    You can attack that belief all you want–I don’t even share it. I’m mocking that it is somehow a special belief. A belief for which you have a “democratic civic obligation, in fact its an ethical obligation.”

  97. #97 Robert O'Brien
    January 30, 2009

    Re Robert O’Brien

    Mr. O’Brien has incorrectly identified Issac Newton as a Christian scientist. By the standards of most Christian denominations, Newton was not a Christian because he rejected the concept of the Trinity. During his lifetime, had his views been known, he would have been branded as a heretic.

    So what? Not only is that not relevant, but I share Isaac Newton’s views; God is not a three-headed homoousian blob.

  98. #98 SLC
    January 30, 2009

    Re Robert O’Brien

    Excuse me, Mr. O’Brien specifically identified Issac Newton as a Christian. That makes it relevant. And apparently, Mr. O’Brien now tells us that he is also not a Christian.

    By the way, here is a link to the latest Robert O’Brien award for stupidity. Certainly well deserved.

    http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2009/01/robert_obrien_trophy_winner_cr_1.php

  99. #99 Robert O'Brien
    January 30, 2009

    Excuse me, Mr. O’Brien specifically identified Issac Newton as a Christian. That makes it relevant. And apparently, Mr. O’Brien now tells us that he is also not a Christian.

    Newton most certainly was a Christian. Whether trinitarians agree is irrelevant.

  100. #100 Tulse
    January 30, 2009

    Newton most certainly was a Christian. Whether trinitarians agree is irrelevant.

    Not to the trinitarians.

  101. #101 SLC
    January 30, 2009

    Re Robert O’Brien

    I can’t speak for all the Christian dominations but Newton certainly would not be considered a Christian by the Roman Catholic Church or the Anglican Communion which are the two largest branches.

  102. #102 Strider
    January 30, 2009

    Here is a post and a comment by Ed Brayton, who eventually banned Robert O’Brien from commenting on his blog, on Robert O’Brien’s anti-gay bigotry:

    “Here’s the text of an email I received last night in response to my post about the Maryland governor from my personal pet troll, Robert O’Brien:

    Thanks for the news; it brought a smile to my face, as do all victories against the institutionalization/legitimization of deviant sexuality. Your inferior morality masquerading as evolved sensibilities was also good for a laugh. As for your reference to Jesus, you need to read the New Testament again (or, more appropriately, have it read to you); homosexuality is expressly forbidden therein.

    Sincerely,

    Robert O’Brien

    Is it any wonder why I named the Idiot of the Month Award after this cretin? Think about the mindset of someone like this. Because the bible says homosexuality is wrong, gay people must be denied everything, even the smallest bit of comfort that would come from having the person they love by their side at the end of their lives. This goes far beyond moral disapproval; it is simply cruelty and viciousness under a thin veneer of self-righteousness. If you disapprove of homosexuality, fine; lots of people do. But if you use that as an excuse to inflict pain on them, then you are sick and sadistic and motivated solely by bigotry. And they have the audacity to clothe themselves in the language of morality. To hell with them, and all like them.”

    http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2005/05/the_repulsiveness_of_antigay_b.php#more

  103. #103 Robert O'Brien
    January 30, 2009

    I can’t speak for all the Christian dominations but Newton certainly would not be considered a Christian by the Roman Catholic Church or the Anglican Communion which are the two largest branches.

    I believe the Eastern Orthodox are number 2. In any event, your remark is still irrelevant.

    Apparently, you thought you were throwing me a curve ball because not everyone knows about Newton’s Christology but I know it well, having read several of his Christological statements in a book by the late theologian Maurice Wiles (who, incidentally, is the father of the famous mathematician Andrew Wiles.)

  104. #104 SLC
    January 30, 2009

    Re Robert O’Brien

    Actually, it’s Mr. O’Brien who is irrelevant. 1 billion Roman Catholics and 85 million Anglicans say that Newton was not a Christian. Mr. O’Brien is out numbered. By the way, Albert Einstein and Charles Darwin, both agnostics, were more important scientists then any of those named by Mr. OBrien, with the exception of Issac Newton.

    Re Strider

    I was not aware why numbnuts O’Brien was banned from Mr. Braytons’ blog. I was under the impression it was due to his making idiotic comments about the theory of evolution, which was the reason for the banning of Collin Brendemuehl and Larry Fafarman. Apparently, it was due to his anti gay bigotry, which he excuses by references to Leviticus.

    By the way, apropos of the subject of this thread, Ed Brayton has interviewed Ken Miller on his radio program, although the podcast it not up yet as of this comment. A link to his podcasts is posted below.

    http://www.declaringindependenceradio.com/index.php?/site/podcasts/

  105. #105 Robert O'Brien
    January 30, 2009

    Actually, it’s Mr. O’Brien who is irrelevant. 1 billion Roman Catholics and 85 million Anglicans say that Newton was not a Christian. Mr. O’Brien is out numbered.

    You are a veritable PEZ dispenser of pseudo-argumentation, the latest being a fine example of argumentum ad populum. Also, if you think a) everyone counted as a Roman Catholic is really a Roman Catholic and b) that all of them understand and/or accept the doctrine of the trinity and would consider Newton a heretic then you are a freeze-dried whackaloon.

    By the way, Albert Einstein and Charles Darwin, both agnostics, were more important scientists then any of those named by Mr. OBrien, with the exception of Issac Newton.

    No. Darwin is overrated and Einstein would not have been able to get out of the gate without the work of the great mathematicians I listed (including, of course, Newton).

  106. #106 Tulse
    January 31, 2009

    if you think everyone counted as a Roman Catholic is really a Roman Catholic […] then you are a freeze-dried whackaloon.

    But everyone you say is a Christian is really a Christian…riiiiiight….

  107. #107 SLC
    January 31, 2009

    Re Robert O’Brien

    No. Darwin is overrated and Einstein would not have been able to get out of the gate without the work of the great mathematicians I listed (including, of course, Newton).

    This comment shows why Mr. O’Brien is an arrogant moron who revels in his stupidity. As Issac Newton himself stated, all great scientists stand on ths shoulders of their predecessors. In fact, an argument could be made that Newton himself was overrated.

    1. Leibnitz also invented the calculus independently of Newton.

    2. Newton was wrong about a particle theory of light being able to explain interference and diffraction while Huygens was right that a wave theory was required.

    Of course, since Mr. O’Brien is an evolution denier, it is not surprising that he would denigrate Charles Darwin. Fortunately, historians of science ignore the ravings of assholes like the O’Briens of the world. As Jeffery Shallit said on his blog, Mr. O’Brien is an individual who has much to be modest about.

  108. #108 SLC
    January 31, 2009

    Re Robert O’Brien

    It’s rather interesting that Mr. O’Brien, in his catalog of mathematicians, neglects to mention the French mathematician and cosmologist Laplace, whose contributions to applied mathematics is at least equal to any of those he cited. Could it be that this omission was due to the fact that Laplace was not a believer?

  109. #109 Bayesian Bouffant, FCD
    January 31, 2009

    Since Miller accepts the reality of miracles, then how can he accept evolution over an Omphalos style miraculous creation, and expect it to have any more epistemological weight than a mere preference?

  110. #110 Bayesian Bouffant, FCD
    January 31, 2009

    Just guessing, but I’ll speculate that he loves the science, loves to study and learn, loves to teach, believes in God, and surpisingly doesn’t give a damn about “epistemological weight.” Again, just a guess.

  111. #111 heddle
    January 31, 2009

    Um, I posted the response to Bayesian Bouffant, FCD above. I must have terrible cut and paste error, posting his name in the wrong spot. Apologies.

  112. #112 Robert O'Brien
    January 31, 2009

    As Issac Newton himself stated, all great scientists stand on ths shoulders of their predecessors.

    No, Newton stated that he stood on the shoulders of giants, and he did so in a letter to a man who was exceedingly short.

    1. Leibnitz also invented the calculus independently of Newton.

    No **** Sherlock. I esteem Leibniz very highly but the list was not meant to be exhaustive.

    2. Newton was wrong about a particle theory of light being able to explain interference and diffraction while Huygens was right that a wave theory was required.

    Yeah, it’s a real mark against Newton that he didn’t know everything!

    As Jeffery Shallit said on his blog, Mr. O’Brien is an individual who has much to be modest about.

    Yes, well, we all can’t be as weighty as Shallit. Ever since he testified for the plaintiffs in Dover, he has become a veritable Who’s that? of science.

    It’s rather interesting that Mr. O’Brien, in his catalog of mathematicians, neglects to mention the French mathematician and cosmologist Laplace, whose contributions to applied mathematics is at least equal to any of those he cited. Could it be that this omission was due to the fact that Laplace was not a believer?

    Yes, it is indeed interesting that I would leave out a non-Christian* from a list of Christian scientists!

    When you were reproducing Galileo’s “leaning tower experiment” as an undergrad did you, perchance, misunderstand the directions and throw yourself from the height, landing on your head in the process?

    *I base this on the exchange he is reported to have had with Napoleon. In any event, Laplace was a great mathematician-scientist.

  113. #113 SLC
    January 31, 2009

    Re Robert O’Brien

    When you were reproducing Galileo’s “leaning tower experiment” as an undergrad did you, perchance, misunderstand the directions and throw yourself from the height, landing on your head in the process?

    Since Mr. O’Briens’ head is empty, such an incident would have had no effect on him.

    By the way, Mr. O’Brien left out James Clerk Maxwell, a believing Christian in his list of scientists. Maxwell was at least as important as any that he mentioned, other then Newton.

  114. #114 Pseudonym
    February 1, 2009

    John Kwok:

    Ken’s defense of both his religious faith and acceptance of evolution as science is absolutely first-rate

    Bayesian Bouffant:

    I’m sorry that you should group the two together. Miller indeed does a fine job of defending science against Creationism, but his religious apologetics are not the least bit convincing.

    For the fiftieth time, repeat after me: “I am not the intended audience of Ken Miller’s book.” (For “book”, substitute “books”, as he’s done more than one on this topic.)

    You may not be convinced. Jason may not be convinced. That’s fine. It’s not about you.

    The apologetics stuff was not intended to convince an atheist that God exists. It was intended to convince a believer that evolution is okay. Ken Miller’s book is not two separate books pasted together, one on science and one on apologetics. It is one book, all of which is apologetics.

    This is a trivial point, but it seems to fly over the head of most posters here.

    bobxxx:

    […] sorry, but ever since 9/11/2001 I have had zero tolerance for all religious ideas, no matter how moderate the deluded people are who believe in those childish ideas.

    Pretty much everyone has been blamed for that. I’ve heard neo-conservatives, the millitary-industrial complex, gun-control advocates, the ACLU, lesbians, abortionists and now, apparently, the little old lady down the street who drives to church on Sunday needs to take her share of blame.

    This game gets old really quickly.

  115. #115 tomh
    February 2, 2009

    Pseudonym wrote: For the fiftieth time, repeat after me: “I am not the intended audience of Ken Miller’s book.”

    So what? The Discovery Institute puts out lectures and lessons that are intended for supporters and true believers, certainly not intended for skeptics or scientists. Does that mean that science-oriented skeptics shouldn’t criticize them?

    The apologetics stuff was not intended to convince an atheist that God exists.

    Of course, nowhere in the post or the comments does anyone imply that it was. Just lousy, irrational apologetics, about what one might expect.

  116. #116 Pseudonym
    February 3, 2009

    So what? The Discovery Institute puts out lectures and lessons that are intended for supporters and true believers, certainly not intended for skeptics or scientists. Does that mean that science-oriented skeptics shouldn’t criticize them?

    To the extent that there are factually errors, of course. And, as private citizens, we have the right to critique any book that we like on whatever grounds we feel the whim to do.

    The only reasoned arguments against Ken Miller’s book(s) that I’ve ever heard are essentially of the form, “I find the apologetics unconvincing” or “I fail to understand how Ken Miller can believe this”. Unlike the output of the DI, nobody is suggesting that Miller’s books contain any substantial factual errors or outright intellectual fraud. The only argument against them is personal incredulity; well-motivated personal incredulity, perhaps, but personal incredulity nonetheless.

    In that sense, there’s a world of difference between the two types of criticism. I have no problem with this line of argument against Miller’s books being made, but I see little sign that those who say “I find the arguments unconvincing” understand that they are not the ones whom those arguments are intended to persuade, nor that those arguments contain anything that they need be persuaded of. On the contrary, people like Richard Dawkins regularly point people to books by Francis Collins and Ken Miller if they think it would help.

  117. #117 DJ~PUSAT
    February 23, 2009

    thanks

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